Two months back you addressed world’s largest food industry trade show at Gulfood Innovation Summit in Dubai. And, now, this COVID 19 pandemic. How are you dealing with this crisis?
We are trying walk and chew gum at the same time! Meaning we are doing a combination of tightening down our operations and shedding any non-essential costs while at the same time strategizing the planning for the “new normal” post the COVID crisis. In particular, we believe that crises has really highlighted the challenges of nutrition (both poor diets and under nutrition) in creating underlying health conditions making certain populations more vulnerable to novel viruses like COVID19
How do you see the changing shape of global vegan industry?
If anything positive is to come of COVID, I hope that it makes people more cognizant of the impact diet on health. The current crisis is both putting stress on some relatively new food companies who have been launching innovative plant-based foods products – and at the same time we are seeing a surge in focus on plant-forward diets as a mechanism to improve health. I think the crisis has also put emphasis on direct-to-consumer channels like eCommerce and home deliveries. This has created a unique opportunity for plant-based food companies to stay connected with their consumer base.
You are former Global Managing Director for Accenture, what diverted your mind to establish Infinite Foods?
Working with Accenture for 22 years, you get to work with amazing blue-chip clients and great business leaders. But large CPG and food companies sometimes can be slow to innovate and capitalize on trends like the plant-based food movement. If you look globally at the food security challenge facing us in 2050, the demand for food – and in particular protein – is really be driven by frontier markets like Africa, India and emerging Asia. These are also the markets that can be the most positively affected by the benefits of plant-based food on health and as a catalyst to drive change in the agriculture and food supply chain. I believe it’s entrepreneurs that need to lead the way in pioneering solutions for these dynamic markets
You have spent some time in India. What are your insights on Indian food processing industry?
Outside of the US and Europe, India is the one market that I’m seeing a lot of R&D flow in the plant-based food sector. I think the India having large portions of the population who follow vegetarian diets for religious or ethical reasons creates a great backdrop to drive new food products. Indian companies are innovating plant-based meat substitutes that are shelf stable and in a format that appeals to mass market consumers like curries and biryanis. The COVID pandemic is also going to shine a brighter light on food safety and traceability. It will be important for food producers around the world to up their game.
What has been your motivation to set up your ventures in Africa particularly?
In emerging market like Africa you have a combination dynamic of large parts of the population still dependent on subsistence agriculture, poor nutrition, growing middle class populations and the need for economic growth/diversification. My motivation was to focus on technology-abled agriculture and food production as a mean to create employment for youth and women, improve community nutrition and resilience and protect the environment. We are disrupting traditional fresh produce and protein supply chains with new thinking that improves livelihoods, nutrition and sustainability. Through our go-to-market platform, we are enabling innovative plant-based brands like Beyond Meat, Miyokos, Oatly and JOI reach 1 billion potential African consumers, increase their revenue and impact while not distracting at all from their day to day sales and operations.
What business plans you had for the current fiscal? How pandemic affects your plans.
We juggling the need to control costs and protect cash against uncertainty while at the same time growing to not only achieve our mission but to diversify our business and make it more resilient. We are continuing to push geographic and product launches as fast as we can to diversify our portfolio. We are also putting increased emphasis on technology as the world moves to a “lower touch” economy.
Beyond COVID 19 catastrophe, acute hunger is global challenge especially developing and under-developed economies. What are your suggestions to these economies?
We need to find new ways of getting low cost, nutrient dense food – in particular protein to the mass market consumer. Diets are too heavily dependent on carbohydrates, cooking oil and sugar (e.g., 80% of people’s diets in Sub Saharan Africa according to the FAO). We need to increase the availability and access to protein by a combination of fortifying traditional food like maize porridge or rice meals with protein, together with focusing on plant-sources of protein that are more nutritious and environmentally efficient.
What are the future plans for your Infinite Foods?
We are just at the beginning of our journey! We still have a lot of work in front of us to expand product lines, launch in key countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and other frontier markets, incubate local brands and create local manufacturing and ingredient growing opportunities. As a mission driven business, we are playing a “long game” to improve nutrition and food security across the continent.
Michelle Adelman is the founder of Infinite Foods, Go Fresh! and Crossover Quality Meats. She is a seasoned strategist, recognized business leader and fierce advocate for mission-driven investing. In 2017, she was named by CEO Global as Africa’s Most Influential Woman – Business & Professional Services and in 2019, she was named to the Forbes Africa “20 New Wealth Creators” list.
Bhushan Yengade trained as a Food Technologist, proficient in food industry project management, technical, market research advisory consultation and training services at the Binder Technology Consultancy. His market research advisory has influenced global food supply chains. He has served in the nodal agency of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries of India for the Maharashtra State.
They addressed the Gulfood Innovation Summit 2020, at the world’s largest annual food & beverage trade show in Dubai on African food processing market. Binder Technology Consultancy is researching on African food processing industry in that context Michelle Adelman was interviewed by Bhushan Yengade.